The man-child stood in front of the full length mirror in a borrowed cap and gown, unsure of what this exercise his mother was having him perform was supposed to accomplish. “Yeah, so?”
She gently reached up to touch his shoulder and brush a long lock of his hair away from his face. “Look at you. This is your future. It’s only three days away.” He cocked his head to the side with a quizzical look, still not seeing where she was going with all this.
“I know you think that this whole graduation ceremony thing is just a bunch of traditional hooey that you really couldn’t care less about. You do know that most of this is for your father and me, right?” He nodded his head. “Well, that’s only about 75% true. That remaining 25% is actually for you.” He started to argue but his mother raised her eyebrows in that way and he shut down his own protest before it started.
“Honey, you need to look- really look- in this mirror. Do you see it? Do you see your success? This is you finally completing that long academic journey through childhood. This is you accepting the chapter of your life as a boy. You are standing on the edge of a new beginning; a new chapter of your life that has been written and read only by God. You are about to share in that new chapter.”
His eyes grew wide and then quickly squinted shut in an effort to keep those floodgates closed. The flood won. “Mom, what if….what if I can’t make it? These final exams are so hard and I…..” he trailed off. “I’m scared.”
“Oh, sweetheart!” his mother assured him. “You’re supposed to be. This is perfectly normal.”
“Were you scared, too?” he asked.
“Terrified,” she said.
“But you always know what you’re doing and you are always so sure of yourself,” he argued.
The mother smiled and sighed. “When I was your age, I was paralyzed with fear. I had only the promise of my dad paying for my education with the stipulation that I become an electrical engineer. I would rather have been stabbed in the ear with a hot poker than become an electrical engineer. It was just something that never even blipped on the radar of my plans for myself. I’d only applied to one university as far from home as I could get and I had been accepted but had no way to pay for it. But I knew deep down that I could do it without his help; without compromising.” Her son wiped away the tears that had escaped earlier with his fist, now intrigued by his mother’s admission of fear.
“I stood there on graduation day in my cap and gown. I was so proud of all that I had accomplished. I was nervous and excited and happy and sad and anxious and scared and so very lost in that sea of emotions. And walking across that stage was surreal. It felt like I was watching someone who looked like me taking steps in my shoes, shaking my principal’s hand, and receiving my diploma. It’s like I was merely a spectator. But I remember thinking, ‘I’m an adult now.’ And then, before I
knew it, I was enrolled in the community college and taking classes at night while I worked during the day. And things began to fall into place. And the unknown wasn’t so scary anymore.”
“Yeah, but you were so much smarter then than I am now,” the boy’s voice shook. “What if I can’t do this, Mama?”
“But, honey, what if you CAN?”